Let’s Visit Caldas Da Rainha

Caldas da Rainha, places to visit, property for sale Silver Coast, boutiques, travel portugal


If you’re visiting the Silver Coast this summer don’t miss out on the town of Caldas da Rainha.  If you’re thinking of locating it’s also a great place to live, with plenty of art galleries, museums, great sports facilities including a world class tennis centre and hey, even a boating lake in the park.

This is an old spa town with a tradition of ceramics.  There are museums dedicated to ceramics, cycling, a hospital museum and of course art and sculpture plus a large cultural centre hosting regular events.  If museums aren’t your thing, there are a couple of large, indoor shopping centres too.

Wander around the old part, stroll through the centre with a range of individual shops or visit the daily fruit and vegetable market.  Then when you’re done have a galao (coffee in a glass) at the cafe in the park or in one of the many side streets off the main square.

Caldas da Rainha, Silver Coast, Sight seeing, Places to visit, church, Portugal, tourism Portugal



Kitchen Disasters


Okay, it wasn’t quite this bad.


Minor disaster day.  The toaster exploded.  I like to believe there was a spiritual connection between this and our shopping trip for an oven at the weekend.  The first proper oven in the Portuguese kitchen we are attempting to renovate.  While looking for this we’d been distracted by luxury toasters.  But we already had a toaster, a nice one at that which we’d been bought for a Christmas present, so we couldn’t justify a new one.

pic: Tod McLellan

pic: Tod McLellan

Now we’ll probably have to get one.  We all rely heavily on toast between meals in this household.  Although we do have a George Formby grill to keep us going which I found brand new and still boxed in a house I once bought, so we’ll not starve on the toast front.  Zed is meanwhile inspecting the workings of Portuguese plugs.

Toaster John Lewis

This one….

John Lewis toaster

or this one….

red toaster, john lewis

… or this one.

Meanwhile, aargh,  I then managed to burn the soup for our midday meal.  I know that’s quite a difficult thing to achieve and I only have a small window when Jae is home from school for cooking lunch.  Clearly being happily engrossed working on the computer while multi tasking at cooking doesn’t work for me.


It didn’t look like this

I replenished the saucepan with water (tip it away – are you kidding?)  and vowed never to go on the computer again while cooking.  On the way back from the bathroom I just…had a peek at emails…clicked through to a blog (about a Vietnamese food tasting tour on motorbikes) then skyped a message to my god daughter’s mother that my god daughter, who is currently in Vietnam, should try the food tasting tour.  I’m not sure her mother will welcome my suggestion that she travel around Ho Chi Minh city on a motorbike tasting food though.

Maybe I should take the tour

Maybe I should take the tour

Meanwhile, the pan was looking black again and burning smells wafted out the kitchen.  Hmmm.  Don’t have time to cook anything else.  Add more water again?

Strangely it tasted delicious.  Here is the recipe for ‘Cook and Double Burn Soup’.  One for Halloween?

Two carrots, three potatoes, handful of frozen cabbage stalks, an onion, cup of peas, stock cube.  Approximately 1 3/4 litres of water.  Put in a pan and cook until the water has almost boiled away and the pan is going brown. Replenish the water.  Boil the water away again until the saucepan is almost ruined.  Replenish the water.  Blend.  Serve with rolls, warmed in a George Formby grill or oven.  Or toast, for those of you who can.

No.  Not serious.  Don’t try this at home.

Adventure story age 8

Available in print or Kindle from Amazon.



‘The Rivoli Wigwam’ – an exciting read for kids!

book cover rivoli

‘The Rivoli Wigwam’ by Alicia Sunday.  An exciting adventure story for 7-9 year olds available today on Amazon!

When I came to Portugal I had a dream that I would write sitting lazily by a pool with a view of a mountain, cooking outdoors, sunshine etc. etc.  Sitting lazily by a pool?  With a family to look after and the school run and….two houses to renovate…are you kidding?

But – finally, finally out of that chaos my children’s book has been published.

It’s a great thing having children curled up with a book, lost in an adventure, learning new words, inspiring the imagination, challenging their reading skills, their perspective of the world. Being quiet.  My children’s stockings are always at least a quarter full of books.  Not all from me, Santa delivers some of them.

So here you are …. ‘The Rivoli Wigwam’ by Alicia Sunday.  An exciting adventure with 204 pages for 7-9 year olds available on www.amazon.com and www.amazon.co.uk.

book cover rivoli

Four kids embark on an extraordinary adventure when they are drawn into the world of Rivoli after a strange princess appears in their garden.  Pleading with them to save her planet, now on the brink of destruction and with time running out, she gives them each a peculiar task to complete.  On the point of despair they turn to the Uclids for help, weird and beautiful creatures that live by the river.  Are they too late to save the planet and it’s gentle ruler, King Alphadi?  If they fail will Earth be destroyed too?   An exciting read for 7-9 year olds with black and white illustrations.



Buying furniture. Our way.

We just need some furniture

We just need some furniture

We were driving round the outskirts of Cartaxo in Central Portugal. It was about thirty degrees. We should have been in the pool. Not looking for furniture. Zed was getting slightly cross with me. Why? I’ll tell you why.

We bought books over from England, films, pots, usual stuff. Not much furniture. Our original plan had been to move to France.  I love French furniture, the beautiful vintage armoires for sale in brocantes or painted book cases in attractive shops like ‘Maisons du Monde’. I have been in barns full of gorgeous furniture where I’ve wanted to ship the lot over to the UK.  Or move to France and buy a house to put it all in.

'Maisons du Monde'

‘Maisons du Monde’

Much of our furniture was inherited in the UK.  Our furniture styling was eclectic.   Partly due to the fact that I loved spending Thursdays at the local furniture auction which resulted in our home and garden being filled with some quite peculiar stuff. At the other end of the spectrum there was always John Lewis.

In Portugal there is Ikea, Moviflor, Jom.  All chain stores, not very exciting. They do not make my head spin with inspiration. I am sure with the fullness of time we will find the equivalent of the brocantes, the furniture auctions, the stylish independent homeware shop to inspire me, I just haven’t found it yet.  We have bought all our furniture so far from ‘Jom’.

'Maisons du Monde

‘Maisons du Monde’

Last week we headed for ‘Jom’ in Cartaxo. We had driven past it many, many times. I toyed with looking up the location first but frankly, once I get on the computer the morning is gone. We had sat nav and ‘Jom’ in other cities is usually well signposted, a bright green sign glimmering above Bricomarche (DIY) and Intermarche (supermarket). We had both seen it. Cartaxo (pronounced something like ‘Cartashoo’) is small, it wouldn’t be that difficult to find….you can see where this is going.

A chest of drawers would be a start

A chest of drawers would be a start

‘Jom’ wasn’t on the sat nav.  It didn’t come up on the phone’s google search. We drove around, no signposts for it. “I’m certain it’s near the train station”, I said to Zed, who was keeping calm, under the circumstances, just a slight frown crossing his face as the temperature outside rose with the midday sun.  We headed for the train station which took us down a beaten track and into little back streets. We toyed with asking an old guy standing by the road for directions, but we probably wouldn’t understand his reply.

Maybe a sofa or two

Maybe a sofa or two

We stopped and had coffee. Drove around again. Put in petrol. The cashier smiled at me. I pounced on her for directions. “Jom?” I asked. “Onde esta Jom – mobiliario?” Actually, that may be closer to the Portuguese language than the words I probably stuttered out. Nevertheless she understood.

“Santarem”, came back the reply.

“Ah. Muite obrigada”.

For those of you who live in Portugal you will know that Santarem is the town twenty miles or so up the road and there is no ‘Jom’ in Cartaxo. Our memories had played tricks on us. I like to think Zed was laughing under his frown when I told him. He certainly gave me an odd look. We drove back into town. Not directly into town because I turned left instead of right out of the garage so we did an interesting tour around the tiny back streets of Vila Cha de Ourique, a village full of old, prettily painted houses on the outskirts of Cartaxo, cut up by the route national.

We could do with a display case

We could do with a display case

Cartaxo is a neat little town with a park, a Chinese restaurant, quaint buildings. Driving around Cartaxo I’d spotted a tiny furniture shop. We went there instead. It looked like the sort of shop that would have interesting stuff inside, maybe some old pieces with history. We were disappointed. Bland beds and chests greeted us, perfectly adequate of course, but uninspiring.  The owners were polite, in their seventies, they put the lights on for us in the backroom to let us see more tables, followed us around the shop in anticipation of a sale.  I so wanted to buy something from them but….selling neither shabby nor chic but a safe inbetween….we came away empty handed.

,,,in the end we went to Ikea...

,,,in the end we went to Ikea…

Birthday Buddha

Eden Buddha

Buddha Eden

Last week it was Zed’s birthday.  “What would you like to do?” I asked.  Visit the Buddha Eden gardens?  Go to Lisbon?  The gorgeous beach at Foz do Arelho? The Montejunto hills with the fabulous views of windmills and take a picnic?  It was Sunday, baking hot, a cloudless blue sky. Perfect day for a birthday.

“Maybe we should get some bin bags and make a start on clearing the attic of all that rubbish the previous owners left” said Zed.

My daughter came in, clutching an ink pen and exercise book.  “…and I need to get my physics homework done first” she said, such is the pressure of school at fourteen.  “Can you explain this?” she asked holding out a page of an IGCSE physics book.  I quickly waltzed towards the door.  “It’s easy”, said Zed, looking through the chapter she needed.  “aah, the old density over volume thing.….”   They were in a different world to mine and I left them talking about what ‘m’ equals to go and fetch the presents.  Helping with  physics on your birthday?


‘Have I got issues’

The night before we – that is me with the children – had been up late drawing and pasting to make birthday cards.  Home-made cards I always think are more interesting and get kept.  Which is lucky because I’d forgotten to pick any up at Torres Vedres Arena shopping centre where we’d driven, round hill sides and winding roads, to get some presents at six o’ clock the previous evening.  Whereas in England there are card shops on every high street corner, in Portugal there is usually a little rack tucked away somewhere in the supermarket.

My finished card looked like something a Year 1 child might pull off, complete with bits of carpet fluff stuck to it, which Zed pointed out as he lovingly pulled dog hair off the back. My daughter as usual had done a splendid drawing of a lion and my son had put in a lot of effort in gold pen and spelled everything correctly.  Mummy nil, children one.  Although to be fair I would’ve had a spare card in if Zed hadn’t found it and given it me for my birthday two weeks before.

Buddha Eden - statues on a grand scale

Buddha Eden – statues on a grand scale

Next came the presents.  All from our favourite Portuguese chainstore shop, Gato.  They sell kitchenware, lights, soft furnishings, a few small items of furniture and stylish gifty knick knacks. Designed in Portugal but manufactured in China, or somewhere a long way away.  Oh I know, I should have gone the ‘hand crafted by local artisans’ route.  Music and film are Zed’s thing but as he hadn’t made a list this year, no watch, cashmere jumper, no favourite album or book, I figured I could go freestyle. I opted for gifts that were attractive but useful.  We had scores of unopened boxes already containing items that were attractive but not useful, bought over at great expense by our removal firm from the UK.

Zed was of course overwhelmed by getting a cafetiere for his birthday.   I even wrapped up a packet of fresh coffee for an additional surprise. It was indeed. My daughter bought him some attractive but useful mugs.  Having terracotta tiled floors most of our mugs now lack handles.  I figure the cafetiere was probably a desperate bid on my part to get order and a sense of homeliness into an as yet uninstalled kitchen.

Birthday breakfast was spent drinking fresh coffee outdoors with a view of the Montejunto hills.  The porcelain mugs were left in the posh box and may remain so, because who dare use them with stone floors?

In the end the bin bag party was dropped and we went to Buddha Eden.  We strolled around the enormous statues in a well manicured garden with a lake, and stopped in the café afterwards for luscious cakes, which was the closest Zed came to a birthday cake that day.